Perfect Pinots -- Charming Chardonnays
Local Connection – World Class Wines
One day, many years ago, Joe Anderson’s and Mary DeWane’s careers intersected, and so did their lives. They met through their respective professions in the health care industry. In fact, Joe had built one of the foremost consulting firms in America, after his previous stint as the CEO of the state of Arizona and the Chair of the US government’s Medicaid committee.
Anyway, neither of them suspected that their lives would lead them into producing high quality Pinot Noir, and a love for Southwest Florida.
Let’s take the second item first. Mary’s brother Frank is the Archbishop of the Venice diocese, responsible for Catholic church activities and charities from Sarasota to Marco Island. That means that Joe and Mary spend a good deal of time in the area…and contribute generously to charitable causes. In February, they participated in (and donated to) the Naples Winter Wine Festival, offering their support to the myriad of charitable causes supported by the event.
The wines are another story. While many of today’s winery owners get born into it, since winemaking can be very much of a family business, people like Anderson and DeWayne get seduced.
“We started visiting California wine country in 2002,” Joe recollects. “We loved it, and went pretty crazy over Pinot Noir.” He sold his health care management company in 2007, and the couple finally had the (considerable) resources to actually buy a vineyard. “I bought 15 acres of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel vines near Santa Rosa,” he says. “Then, the DeLoach vineyards came on the market in 2005 and I couldn’t resist.”
The problem was, Anderson knew absolutely nothing about winemaking, so he hired winemaker Mike Sullivan from premium winery Hartford Court in January of 2006.
“Then we had to find a name,” he remembers. “We came up with ‘Benovia.’” It’s a combination of his father’s first name – Ben – and his mother’s maiden name, Novian.
Joe’s passion for Pinot Noir (known as the “heartbreak grape” because it’s so difficult to grow) led him to uproot some of the vineyards and replant them with more efficient spacing and higher quality clones. Then he discovered that vineyards are like potato chips and cats. You can’t have just one.
“That led us to buy 12 acres in the Sonoma Coast appellation,” Anderson recalls. “Different soil. Cooler climate. Perfect for a few other Pinot clones.” Still seduced, he bought the 40-acre horse ranch next to that vineyard.
While Anderson and his winemaker were cultivating tons of acres of grapes, they had no winery…and working in a custom crush facility was getting too inconvenient. So they built one in August of 2015, which now produces about 6000 cases a year. They offer 3 Chardonnays and 6 Pinot Noirs.
“Mary and I love Pinot,” says Anderson, “because it so profoundly reflects the places where it’s grown. And we’re very careful of the way we produce our wines. There’s no shortcut to quality.”
He says his career in the wine world has been a “heck of a run.” It’s hard to disagree.
Presented for your enjoyment – our latest discoveries and surprises.
Benovia La Pommeraie Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2015 ($48) – Concentrated aromas and flavors on the nose and palate, with pronounced citrus and white floral notes, sweet orange peel, cream, and a long minerally finish. WW 94
Benovia Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2015 ($48) – Partially aged in new French oak, this lushly textured Pinot Noir offers a nose of strawberry and spice, followed by flavors of red cherry, raspberry and mixed black fruit. The tannins are a bit pronounced, so this one needs a little time in the cellar. WW 92
Benovia Zinfandel Sonoma County 2015 ($43) – Winemaker Mike Smith kept this Zin in the barrel for a bit, achieving rich aromas of blackberry and spice. Full bodied and fruit forward, the blackberry and raspberry notes are up front on the palate. More restrained and elegant than typical California Zins. WW 93-94
Ask the Wine Whisperer
What is a “meritage” wine? -- Brett L., New York
“Meritage” is an American designation for red wines made with the traditional blend used in Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. However, it is a kind of a brand, trademarked by the Meritage Association which was formed in 1988. Only paying members of the association may use the term on their labels.